In a notable episode, Marge Simpson decides that the Simpson family need to be become more arts aware and insists that family goes to the opera. I have been known to quote the Homer Simpson line at Anne on the odd occasion we have been to the opera...
" Oh Marge (whining voice) Wha'...No opera dogs at halftime?"
This phrase not only tickles my fancy, but it sums up our first operatic experience in Rome a few weeks ago, In truth I have been too traumatized to even reference the experience in this blog until now... as having now been to an extraordinary operatic experience in Lucca, this tale does have a Disney ending where the balance is restored. Let me take you back...
On the streets of Rome, Anne picked up an impressive looking flier. Classy photos, and a bill that included excerpts from La Traviata and other operas. "Singing at its finest" it screamed. Held in the Centro di Ingresso on a major street, it sounded reasonable. Tixs were purchased via the hotel reception. All seemed legit.
The first tell-tale sign of an impending disaster was being made to wait outside the non Church venue in a line right up to "show time" Thus forming a visual representation to the passing punters this must be a show in demand.
Once inside the wait continued on uncomfortable seats in a nice enough hall with a simple stage with some props. Cue next obvious tell-tale sign cheap and I mean cheap, plastic flowers formed part of the properties on stage.
Cue warning sign number 3... no empty chairs for a small orchestra, no piano, no theatrical lighting...
Cue warning sign number 4... from behind a theatrical flat came the "tinkling" sound of an electric keyboard playing what my knowledgeable companion later described as tantamount to the rehearsal score.
Oh, the performance began dramatically enough with the soprano wandering about the stage sighing and lighting candles, picking up a hair brush at a simple bedroom dresser, sighing and staring out a pretend window... okay its theatre of the mind stuff, not too unusual. However, this dramaturgical scene setting did turn out to be the stellar performance element of the evening. Yes, it was breathtaking...
Once this soprano sucked in a lungful of air and belted out her first note, the extent of the calamity which we were in became known.
Joined soon after by the tenor who paced the stage in supposed character which may have been a true representation if the Director was going for the "ants in your pants" look, and then a baritone. The saying that three is a crowd was never more apt.
We left after the first act. (I wanted to go after the first song)
Wounded but not in a death spiral we backed up for another performance this time in a church the very next day... because perseverance is important. Anne ended up chatting with the door staff who were on the street outside the local church close by our hotel. The young woman had the skill set to smell the whiff of an appreciative operatic fan from a few paces away and quickly pounced on Anne sensing her operatic needs had not been met. "Come on in, meet the cast... the performances is on in two hours..." the director/tenor even offered to give us our 50 Euro back if the performance was not good enough once he heard our tale of operatic woe.
It was polished, had a string quartet and there were significntly higher performance values... but there again were those crappy plastic flowers hanging about as props... so maybe its how they do it here... We didn't seek out a refund and left after 90 mins feeling somewhat better. Of course, these guys were on a comparative gravy train, as the last experience was so bad.
How nice it was to sit so close to the string quartet and having the experience of the beautiful playing flow over one... sure beats a hidden electric piano.
As Lucca is the birth once of Puccini, the folk here take their PAs (Puccini Arias) seriously. Puccini didn't stay long as he was snubbed and riciculed by the establishment who couldn't cope with the talent and aspiration of the middle class chappie who should stick to his ordained destiny as church organist rather than have dreams of being a composer. Allegedly, once he left town in his late teens he never spent another night here. He would do a day visit quite frequently but would not spend the night in the town. Seems the folk are keen to make amends as every night at 7pm, you can attend a concert.
This was a superb experience restoring the balance. The control of the tenor was super and the pianist was something to behold. Very talented. pleased to report... there were no plastic flowers.
For those fans of Freddie Mercuy... check out the photo of a young Puccini on the right hand side... Was Freddie Puccini's love child once or twice removed? Could this explain Bohemian Rhapsody...?